Property Blog: Predicting the market

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The office market in the Brisbane fringe is growing tremendously. I write this not because I think anyone will be even remotely interested in the news?apart from the handful of readers who happens to own office space in the Australian city?but because I need some certainty to cling to. Over here in Blighty figuring out which way the market is going appears to be increasingly a matter for clairvoyants rather than property economists.

Make it clairvoyants with a particularly cloudy crystal ball. As a prospective sell-to-buy vendor, I have followed every market review with bated breath?and an increasing sense of puzzlement. One day, you read sales could hardly be more bullish, the next you find out everything is grinding to a halt.

Lately, most reports have been on the up side. Earlier this month, the Knight Frank prime country house index recorded a growth of 3.3% across the residential country market in the first quarter of 2006. This, they maintain, was the highest increase since June 2004.

“The first three months of 2006 have seen the UK’s prime country house market experience the boom conditions which have gripped central London since the second half of last year,” explains Liam Bailey the Head of Knight Frank’s Research. “There is no doubt that London purchasers are using their buying power this year ? with record bonuses being spent readily on property. 2004 and 2005 were difficult years in the London housing market with the London economy taking a long time to recover from the City’s early 2000s recession. But a strengthening economy has contributed to record demand and price growth and now money is flowing out of the Capital and into the country house market.”

Which is extremely encouraging news if I look at it with my seller hat on?and rather less so for my inner buyer hoping to pick up a bargain. However, just about as the buyer in me was about to resign herself to another series of uninterrupted price hikes, out came the latest survey by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, just days after the Knight Frank one, with the news that prices are indeed growing, but at a slower pace than before. Last February, it reports, 16% more chartered surveyor estate agents reported price increases, whereas in March the figure slid slightly to 13%. To end on a happy note, though, it says that “the industry is positive about a strong post-Easter rally, with price expectations at their highest since April 2004.”

London and the South East, in particular, are hugely buoyant, as the three or four estate agents I had the pleasure to confer with in recent weeks all assured me. They all insisted that, for Londoners, now is a good time to sell, sell, sell. Of course, the fact that they were all trying to get an instruction for the sale of my flat won’t have in any way affected their judgement. I am almost swayed. Almost. But perhaps I’ll wait and see if prices do the decent thing and increase where I want to sell while dropping where I want to buy. I guess this means I’ll stay put for a few more weeks. Though I have a niggling feeling I am missing a trick here. Perhaps I really should sell up and buy an office in Brisbane instead.